The flu is a story that will probably linger all season long. We saw it affect 40 Wisconsin players a couple weeks ago, a bunch of Ole Miss Rebels including Jevan Snead and Dexter McCluster during their off week, Colt McCoy against Texas Tech, and even the Florida coaching staff in addition to some of its players.
In the first week of the season, the flu story du jour was Georgia quarterback Joe Cox. He took a separate flight from his teammates to Stillwater and never really looked right in the Bulldogs' tough 24-10 loss to the Cowboys. His line for the game was decidedly lackluster:
He hit on just half of his passes, his average was bad, and his rating was mediocre. It was a performance that had some Bulldogs already looking to the bench for the freshman backups. Perhaps the Ginger Ninja's struggles were simply a side effect of the fact that, as we have seen with Chuck Norris, cowboys can learn to fight with and defeat those who participate in martial arts. More likely, a combination of the flu (and the accompanying ineffective practice), first game starting jitters, and a long road trip conspired against him.
However, just look at what he's done in the two following games:
The game against South Carolina was a picture of efficiency. He was very accurate, but his yardage total wasn't tremedously high and he only threw for one more touchdown than he had interceptions. However, it was exactly what Georgia needed in what unexpectedly turned into a wild and wooly shootout between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs. Cox lead the team back from a 10 point first quarter deficit to take the lead, a lead that his team would not relinquish again.
Even that performance didn't foreshadow what was coming this weekend.
Cox suddenly went from efficient to superstar, torching an admittedly weak Arkansas pass defense for five touchdowns and 375 yards. That yardage total was one that Matthew Stafford beat just once in his career, with his 407 yards in last year's Georgia Tech loss, but Stafford needed six additional completions to get there. The five touchdowns were also a mark that Stafford only reached once, again in that Georgia Tech game.
A lot of people came away from the Georgia-Arkansas game buzzing about Ryan Mallett and his strong arm. That makes sense, because he had some throws that were wondrous. However, it's amazing to me how little recognition Cox is getting for his effort. Even on "College Football Final," much of the game's highlight was spent with Lou Holtz and Mark May bickering about nothing over top of Cox tossing bombs. Rece Davis tried to refocus them on the play of Cox, but they ended up talking more about Mallett.
It's unlikely we'll see Cox have a game like this again in SEC play. There isn't another defense that looks like it will be as soft and malleable as Arkansas' pathetic unit was last night. I don't think any Georgia fans have any delusions of the sort.
However, South Carolina's defense is probably going to end up pretty good when all things are said and done. That game shows more of the realistic blueprint for success for Cox. He didn't put up pinball numbers, but he was accurate and efficient in leading his team to a come from behind win.
Georgia won't be winning any games on Cox's arm alone, but when you combine it with Richard Samuel's solid running so far, it makes for a nice offense that will keep the Bulldogs in games while the defense figures its issues out.